Engaging the community is a vital aspect of business for retailers. There are countless positive outcomes which come hand in hand with capturing the hearts of the local community, building consumer trust and growing commitment.
Modern Retail had the pleasure of speaking with Jacobs the Jewellers’ Adam Jacobs. The independent retailer originally opened on the Kings Road in Reading in 1948. The family-run business has seen younger generations continue to look after the business, moving to King St in Reading in 2005. An excellent example of an independent retailer with an enormous impact, Adam Jacobs explained exactly why retailers should place importance on engaging the local community and how they can give back to those in the local area.
MR: What are the most successful ways to engage the local community in your experience?
AJ: For us, we’ve always done it mainly through charitable work and voluntary organisations. Obviously having a shop in a town centre for more than 70 years also does engage customers, but when I was growing up, I was very aware my parents did a lot in the community like rotary and serving on the magistrates bench.
It’s all about doing things about the four walls of the shop. For an independent business, the more people you meet, the more chance there is of getting your name and business out there. I chair a local investment group and participate in BIDs in the town centre which helps to network. The more you do it, people begin to remember and trust you and they want to chat. That definitely gets people through the front door.
Giving back to the community is so important and that’s the kind of family we have always been. Last year, we fundraised in excess of £94,000 and this was because the community came together to support a great cause. In terms of engaging, it’s been incredible.
MR: How important is word-of-mouth?
AJ: Word-of-mouth is the second most important method of finding clients for us. The first is passing and the third most important is online. This has always been the case with word-of-mouth. Our reputation means people speak about us and I have surveyed our clients for the last five years to understand this.
MR: What are the best ways to understand your local community’s preferences?
AJ: We speak to our team of 10 staff and some years they choose which charities we support. I’m very keen for staff to get involved in the local community too, meaning we get a gut feel for people’s preferences.
MR: How can you engage locals using social media?
AJ: We look to include things of general interest to people. Rather than just posting pictures, we create a mixture, including things in the community. We have some saying they first heard of us over social media and it definitely grows interest and awareness in the background. It’s not our number one source of customer so we have to dedicate resources accordingly, but we have a project running where we can track and analyse data, setting objectives and reviewing it to measure growth.
MR: What are your three top tips for a retailer looking to engage their local community?
AJ: The first would be to start small. You don’t need to change the world in one go, so begin within your comfort zone and get started. The second is to find a local charity which directly benefits your immediate vicinity. The third would be to engage your staff with the decision-making process, meaning they are passionate about the cause.
Highlighting the importance of engaging the local community, Donald Lund, Ph.d., associate professor of marketing in the UAB Department of Marketing, Industrial Distribution and Economics, explained: “Local retailers build stronger customer relationships through community engagement, helping to overcome economic disadvantages compared to larger online retailers. Our research shows that community engagement is one such strategy local retailers can employ to succeed.”